Monday, March 19, 2007

Ella made the news

::From Penampang To Beijing Ritz Carlton

MENCARI PENGALAMAN BARU… Pengarah Perhubungan Awam hotel Ritz Carlton, Finella Siambun bersama Pengurus Besar hotel Ritz Carlton, Derek Flint. Siambun mengambil keputusan meninggalkan negeri kelahirannya, Sabah dan berpindah ke Financial Street di sebelah barat Beijing untuk mencuba kerjaya dalam industri yang lain.
Foto: Tham Choy Lin

BEIJING, March 18 (Bernama) -- After working in resort hotels for 12 years in her home state of Sabah, Finella Siambun decided to call it quits to ponder on a career outside the industry. That was in December 2005.

Four months later, she packed her bags and headed for Financial Street in the west side of Beijing. Often spotted in a smart business suit, Siambun was soon in the thick of things, preparing for the opening of the first Ritz Carlton in the Chinese capital.

"I couldn't resist the opportunity. If you want to do an MBA, you go to Harvard. In the hotel line, you would want to work for the Ritz," said Siambun, a Kadazandusun from Penampang.

Next month, she marks a full year as public relations director of the luxurious 250-room hotel that opened its doors in October last year. United States Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, and Hong Kong movie star Tony Leung were among its early guests.

It is also the first Ritz to be conceived from start to finish in China and now the flagship for two more hotels to be launched by the five-star chain this year, one in central Beijing and the other in southern Guangzhou city.

Looking relaxed at Cepe, the hotel's cosy Italian restaurant, Siambun said she was a different picture when she first came because starting in Beijing, in her words, was like a slap in the face.

She arrived on April Fool's Day and was employee No. 13. The weather was still cold and she couldn't speak Chinese.

"No one knew who I was, I was back to zero. Having to start from scratch all over again was a humbling experience," she said, and chuckled at her days in Kota Kinabalu where she had things at her fingertips and would simply pick up the phone to call her network of contacts.

"I must say the early days were trying but I was not brought up to quit. There was no time to settle down, we had a job to open the hotel and the priority was to get the local staff to speed up in providing quality service expected of a Ritz Carlton."

Siambun is a business administration graduate majoring in human resources from the University of Arizona in Tuscon, US.

She was on holiday in Shanghai when told of the opportunity at the Ritz. She took a flight to Beijing for the interview and is one of two Malaysians working in the hotel along with finance director, Chen Wai Chin, who is from Ipoh.

Siambun speaks a smattering of Chinese now, picking it up mostly from her staff and taxi drivers.

"I think the biggest lesson here is the learning curve. You must always be open to new things and that you are never too good for your job," she said.


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